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Getting to the Finish Line

Students huddle in a pile to stare at a computer screen that they are working on together

In last week’s blog, Completing Page Spreads, United Yearbook colleague Joon Kim and former yearbook adviser, furnished three major strategies–the 5 Hour Spread, FedEx Friday and Parkinson’s Law–to assist yearbook staff in finishing spreads. And although there is a gamifying element to both strategies and there is the fact that completed spreads can be tied to grades to help motivate staff members to get the work done, the reality is that deadlines with much left undone can still loom large at this time of year.

The last 4 weeks prior to the final deadline were often a hard slog to the finish line

No matter how well intentioned a staff member was, no matter how well partnered with a mentor a struggling student was, no matter how well structured the ladder was or how well monitored the assignments were, the last 4 weeks prior to the final deadline were often a hard slog to the finish line.

Here’s what my many staffs and I learned together:

  • LEARN TO PUT SPREADS TO BED! We reviewed page spreads, sometimes as an editing team and sometimes as a class, to pull ONLY THOSE SPREADS THAT REALLY REQUIRED A RE-MAKE. Not everything needs to be reconsidered. The original staff member whose spread it was, was required to be part of the re-make. This was handled carefully–usually led by me or the trained Editor in Chief–so that pride in and ownership of work could be preserved. Ramping work to ‘acceptable’ at this point in the timeline is all that is necessary. Don’t Dwell; Move On!

  • BE QUICK THINKING! It may be necessary to invent new spreads, even at this late date! Brainstorming either with your leadership team or with the entire staff or both can get this done asap. Just remember to

    • Be consistent with the yearbook theme.

    • Make sure to keep the new spread ideas about getting more and different faces in the book.

    • Keep a sense of humor and a ‘can do’ attitude around any adjustments that have to be made. This is the real world. Pivots and adaptations are inevitable.

  • LEAN ON THOSE WHO WANT AND CAN DO THE WORK! There will be a core group of staff members who want to do the work of pulling together those remaining spreads, index work, or proofing for errors. USE THEM.

  • PROVIDE TIME & FOOD! We did some late Friday nights, Saturdays, and a couple of overnighters–all at the school with appropriate permissions from administration and parents/guardians with chaperones–if another beyond yourself is required. Parents can be wonderful sources of food!

  • BE PREPARED TO PERSONALLY PUT IN THE TIME! Not every job or task I committed to as a teacher ended at 3 or 4 pm. Teaching the yearbook class was one of those commitments. This was my opportunity to work alongside my staff offering my professional support and undergirding their knowledge and efforts with my own. I don’t know any other way to teach. So, asking students to take on the responsibilities of creating a yearbook of which they can be proud requires extra from them and from me. Be not afraid; it is worth it.

  • CELEBRATE, CELEBRATE, CELEBRATE!! Once the final spreads have been put to bed and sent off to the publisher, gather your leadership team and plan a really good party for during a class or an after school activity. Make sure to cover all the bases–especially recognizing everyone’s talents and efforts in sincere and genuine appreciation and gratitude reflecting an understanding of how everyone’s ability and capacity for work differs and, yet, was invaluable to the project.

A group of young people sit in discussion at a table as they take notes and write out ideas.
Remember the heightened stress and pressure your staff feels during these last few weeks before the final deadline

Remember the heightened stress and pressure your staff feels during these last few weeks before the final deadline. Check in with them. Put up a ‘Dad Joke’ a day. Start class with a guided meditation–perhaps use an app. Try some breathing strategies. Bring in a yoga instructor. Sneak a snack treat in for your staff. Have a jar, from which a staff member chooses, of outrageous, silly short activities to start the class. These are simple ways to let off steam. Anything to help get them and you to the finish line in one piece.

Believe it or not, you will get there, and you will have a yearbook.

Feel free to contact United Yearbook Printing with any questions you may have. We would be glad to help you and your yearbook staff in any way we can!

Contributor: Lucy McHugh comes to United Yearbook Printing from a 39-year career in public and private school education. She was a former visual art teacher and yearbook adviser. She received a Bachelors of Science in Art from Columbia College in Columbia, SC, a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Nebraska in 2000, and in 2014 earned a Certificate in Catholic School Leadership from Loyola Marymount University. Lucy enjoys her family, making art and gardening.

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